Finland is full of interesting contrasts, such as the four seasons, the midnight sun and the period of darkness, urban and rural, East and West - you name it.
It's truly amazing how uniquely exotic each season can be. Four times a year, nature changes its uniform completely - colour, light, temperature, sounds and smells. Everything changes in a way that happens nowhere else.
Not only the climate but also Finns are considered to be cool – a bit quiet and reserved. But they are actually warm, friendly, hospitable and especially honest people.
The first impression you get, looking out from the window of the plane, is that there are a lot of trees. An endless carpet of forest, with lakes in between. And a few small farms and small towns. So it's kind of a surprise when you land in Helsinki to find that the airport is so modern and efficient. Not a polar bear in sight.
You'll have a few more surprises as you travel around the country. Meeting a herd of reindeer in Lapland. Sailing among thousands of islands in the archipelago, or on one of thousands of lakes in eastern Finland. The endless days of summer and the endless nights of winter.
There are two ways to travel: fast and slow. You can get here fast, with nonstop flights from cities all over Europe and Asia.
Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport or Tampere International Airport are your most likely points of international arrival if you are travelling to Finland by air. During the winter season also the Lapland airports such as Rovaniemi, Enontekiö, Kittilä, Ivalo and Kuusamo are increasingly popular, especially for direct charter flights.
All scheduled flights to/from Helsinki are available from Helsinki-Vantaa Airport travel planner service.
» See more: Finavia
Rail Travelling between Russia and Finland; Rail travel between Finland and Russia has increased significantly in recent years. The fast speed Allegro, only 3,5 hours, has four departures per day from Helsinki and St. Petersburg. Passport and customs controls are conducted aboard the moving train and the authorities start inspections already after the train's departure from Helsinki or St. Petersburg.
The Tolstoi train to Moscow via St Petersburg operates a daily departure between Helsinki and Moscow.
» See more: VR
There are many ways to come to Finland by bus or by car. The internal borders of Schengen countries can be crossed anywhere, provided that you are not carrying goods that must be declared. Therefore you can cross the border from Finland to Sweden or Norway anywhere you wish.
There are 9 official border-crossing places between Finland and Russia.
Driving licence:A valid driving licence issued in an EU country is valid throughout the EU.
» See more: Border crossing by the Finnish Border Guard
Once you've arrived, take your time. You can get around by train, bus, car, steamship, cruise ship, bicycle, skis or sleigh. Relax and enjoy it.
Finland has one of the densest and least expensive airline networks in Europe, with airports throughout the country, including in the far north. For domestic flights there are several kinds of discount tickets. For further information, please contact your travel agent. All scheduled flights to/from Helsinki are available from Helsinki-Vantaa Airport Travel Planner service.
» See more: Finavia
Finnish trains are spacious, comfortable and clean. The scenery among the lines is beautiful, especially in Eastern Finland where there are many lakes. You can travel either by a car carrier train or by a passenger train. You can also choose whether you would like to travel through the night or at the day time.
» See more: VR
The Finnish coach route network is one of the most comprehensive in Europe covering more than 90% of the public roads.
» See more: Matkahuolto
The Finnish drive on the right and overtake on the left. Driving in Finland is a relatively stress-free and enjoyable experience but can in winter months be dangerous.
Snow tyres are required December to February and engine heaters are strongly recommended. Headlights must be used at all times.
Motorists in Finland should remain alert for elk and reindeer which frequently wander onto roads and are most active at dusk.
Please note that petrol stations that take payment only with automatic cash machines do not accept foreign credit cards. Petrol stations with manned services accept most widely-issued credit cards.
The blood/alcohol limit in Finland is 0.05. Travelers should be aware that drink driving laws are strict. Police strictly enforce all traffic laws and institute random roadside breathalyser tests. Those drivers who register a .05 or above alcohol content are subject to immediate arrest.
Almost all of Finland's coastal towns run boat services as well as organized sightseeing and charter cruises. Finland's coastal towns provide a wide choice of charter and local cruises for holidaymakers. There are also scheduled services in the Åland Islands and archipelago.
In Lakeland sightseeing cruises range from short expeditions lasting a couple of hours to leisurely tours with cabin accommodation that may last several days, and the vessels range from quaint lake steamers to open-top motor cruisers ideal for sightseeing.
Time in Finland is 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). The time difference between Eastern U.S. Standard Time and Finnish Standard Time is 7 hours.
Daylight saving time (DST) begins across the EU on last Sunday of March when clocks are moved forward an hour and it ends on last Sunday of October when clocks are put back an hour. The 24-hour timetable is usually followed, so shop signs might read as follows, for example: 09.00-21.00 (meaning from nine to nine), or 07.00-19.00 (seven to seven).
Basic road and city maps are available in bookstores all over Finland. Sea and boating charts are for sale in the main ports, in most large bookshops and ship's chandlers in Finland. Good tourist maps of Helsinki are available from the dispenser in the concourse of the main Railway Station in the capital, and are also included in the Helsinki This Week listings guide, available for free in all hotels.
Town maps, excursion maps, road maps and routes, nautical charts etc. on: Maps on suomi.fi
In Helsinki foreign currency and travellers' cheques can be exchanged in several currency exchange offices in the city centre, including Forex
Other exchange points are at
Turku: Forex/Address Eerikinkatu 12, Monday - Friday 09.00 - 19.00, Saturdays 08.00 - 15.00.
Tampere: Forex/Address Hämeenkatu 14b, Monday - Friday 09.00 - 19.00, Saturdays 09.00-15.00.
In smaller towns, banks may be the only exchange points. Hotels usually exchange small amounts, but it's advisable to exchange money in your home country or at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport.
The Finnish currency unit is the euro (EUR), divided into 100 cents.
» See more: Forex
Finland caters well for disabled people, and legislation ensures that this is the case. Public amenities and transport take relatively good account of people with mobility problems.
Helsinki City Planning Department assisted by the Helsinki Disability Board and several disability organisations, has produced a guide book, Accessible Helsinki.
'Helsinki for All' gives detailed information about everything you'll need, from location of accessible public toilets and disabled parking to accommodation and contacts for further information.
Before leaving on a journey, travellers should find out about sickness insurance authorities in their own country and whether that country has concluded a social security agreement with Finland that covers health care during a temporary stay and, if so, what the procedure is for obtaining compensation.
Finland is one of Europe's safest countries in terms of health and hygiene. No vaccinations or inoculations are required before arrival. Finnish pharmacies are well stocked with all the basic medicines, but note that some medicines that are available in stores and supermarkets in other countries - such as Aspirin and various ointments - are only available in pharmacies in Finland.
There are a dozen official holidays in Finland, 10 church holidays and only two other national holidays, May Day on May 1st, also known as Vappu, and Independence Day on December 6th.
» See more: Finnish National Public Holidays
During the summer, mosquitoes are a nuisance in the countryside, especially in the north of Finland. In cities there are almost no mosquitoes. Finnish mosquitoes are a nuisance rather than a hazard, but you can protect yourself from mosquito bites by wearing long sleeves and trousers, especially at dusk, and using mosquito repellent, which is available in shops and at kiosks. The pharmacies also sell cream for easing the effects of the bites.
Taxis can be obtained by telephone (see telephone directory under Taksi) or from taxi ranks. The central taxi reservation number in Helsinki is 0100 0700.
Your hotel reservation staff will be able to provide you with local booking numbers. Yellow Taxis is an independent taxi service operating from and to Helsinki airport, telephone 0600-555 555. This service operates on a share basis.
All taxis have an illuminated yellow sign clearly marked ‘Taksi/Taxi'. When the sign is lit the taxi is vacant, but taxis will often head for the nearest taxi rank before actually picking up passengers. Payment can be made using Finnish bank cards and major international credit cards as well as cash.
The usual basic fare is 5.70 euros (in 2012). The fare rises gradually on a kilometre basis, as indicated by the meter, and depending on the number of passengers. Yellow Taxis from and to Helsinki airport operates on a share basis, and fares depend on the number of people in the car. The single fare for a one-way trip between the airport and the city centre is 29 e (in 2012).
At night from 20.00 to 06.00, on Saturdays from 16.00 and on Sundays the basic fare is 8.80 euros (in 2012). The waiting charge is 42.10 euros an hour (in 2012).
Tipping is not necessary for Finnish taxi drivers. You can of course round the bill up to the nearest full amount if you feel you've been treated with good service and smooth ride.
Finnish taxis are comfortable, safe and modern cars. Fitted with the latest GPS navigation systems, even the most remote addresses are easily found. But due to the Finnish language, which may be rather difficult to pronounce, it is advisable to write down the address of your destination.
By direct dialling:
1. dial the international prefix (00, 990, 994 or 999)
2. the country code (without the general prefix 0)
3. the trunk code (without the general prefix 0 or to Spain without 9)
4. the subscriber's number
For international number enquiries and tariff information dial 020208.
To call Finland from abroad first dial the international prefix of the country you call from, second the country code to Finland (358), third the trunk code without the prefix 0, fourth the subscriber's number.
To make an automatic call in Finland, the trunk code is used with the prefix 0. To book a manual long-distance call dial 020222. For tariff information, dial 9800-8353. For number enquiries dial 020202. For information on mobile phones dial 9800-7000. Besides telephone booths and hotels, calls can be made from local post and tele offices.
The trunk prefix for calls made within Finland is 0, and the international access code for calls out of Finland is the pan-European prefix 00. Callers to Finland abroad should first dial the country code, 358, and then the area code, without the first (0).
Tipping culture is almost non-existent in Finland, although it has become more common recently. Service charges are included in hotel room rates, restaurant and taxi prices, so tips are not expected, but can be given if you think the service has been especially good. A cloakroom fee of about 2 euros for restaurant doormen should be clearly indicated in the cloakroom area.
In Helsinki the Found Property Service (Löytötavarapalvelu) is at Mäkelänkatu 56, 00510 Helsinki, tel. +358-(0)600 41006 (service number euro 1.97/min + local net charge, in 2012), fax. +358-(0)600 14108. Open from Monday to Friday 09.00 - 18.00.
Elsewhere in the country, contact the local police station if your belongings go missing.
» See more: Found Property Service
Numerous Finnish products such as food, hides, skins, leather, undressed and dressed fur, yarns, fabrics, footwear, furniture, toys, sports goods and drinks, are exported and are recognised for their consistently high quality. Finland is well supplied with shops all the way from the industrial south to the most northern parts of Lapland.
Opening hours below are a general guide, and there may be local and seasonal variations.
Railway Station tunnel in Helsinki: daily until 22.00
|Alko Stores (the only outlets for wines and spirits)|
|Mon - Thu:||09.00 - 18.00 (20.00)|
|Fri:||09.00 - 20.00|
|Sat:||09.00 - 16.00 (18.00)|
Eighty per cent of the water in Finland is classed as being exceptionally clean. Improved water protection has resulted in an improvement in the quality of the water emitted by both industry and municipalities.
The clearest indications of eutrophication can be found in the Gulf of Finland and in the archipelago.
Bottled mineral water is available in shops and restaurants, but Finnish tap water is of the highest quality and can be consumed freely throughout the country.
To contact the emergency services in any EU country from any phone, fixed or mobile, dial 112, free of charge. Information about health care available in Helsinki round the clock: tel. +358 (0)9 10 023.
All hospitals have doctors on duty round the clock. In emergencies patients should be directed to a health centre or hospital emergency unit.
For details of dental services from 09.00 to 21.00, call tel. +358 (0)9 736 166.
24-hour emergency hospital treatment for foreigners with doctors on duty around the clock:
|Helsinki University Central Hospital: Töölö Hospital (serious accidents)||Topeliuksenkatu 5, Helsinki||tel. +358 (0)9 4711|
(medicine and surgery)
|Haartmaninkatu 4, Helsinki||tel. +358 (0)9 4711|
|The telephone numbers in other towns are available at hotels|
Medicines are sold at pharmacies (Apteekki). Some pharmacies have late opening hours. In Helsinki, the pharmacy at Mannerheimintie 96, tel. +358 (0)300 - 20 200, has 24-hour service.
Anyone permanently resident outside the EU and Norway can shop tax free in Finland, thus saving about 12 (max. 16) per cent on purchases of over 40 e.
Only stores with TAX FREE SHOPPING signs will provide customers with a cheque covering the VAT refund; this can be cashed on leaving the last EU country visited.The cheque, together with the goods purchased, should be presented at the point of departure. The refund will be paid in cash. Tax-free purchases must be taken out of Finland or the EU in unused condition.
If the goods are carried out of the EU from any country other than Finland, Sweden, Norway or Denmark, the cheque must be stamped by the customs upon departure from the last EU country. The cheque can also be cashed at Global Refund offices at all main airports.
Export service: Goods can be sent direct to an address abroad or to a traveller's plane or ship. The sales tax of 23 per cent is then deducted.
Value added tax is added to invoices and normally included in the displayed total price for goods and products in Finnish shops and restaurants. The standard rate for VAT, the initials for which are ALV in Finnish, is 23 per cent, with a rate of 13 per cent for food and animal feed and 9 per cent for transport.
» Read more about the Tax-fee tourist sales in Finland.
American Express, Diner's Club, Eurocard, Access, Master Card and Visa are accepted in hotels, restaurants, larger shops, and department stores. Visa Electron is also accepted in many shops and department stores.
Finnish banks are open from Monday to Friday 09.15 - 16.15 (office hours may vary regionally), closed on Saturdays and Sundays.
All banking services are available at branches of banks such as Sampo, Nordea Bank Finland, OKO Bank Group and Ålandsbanken, but the majority of banking in Finland is now done on-line through home or company computers as well as payment terminals located at branch offices.
Finns use less physical cash in their transactions than any other nation, but ATMs for cash withdrawal are fairly widespread and marked by the sign OTTO. Most major credit cards, including Visa, MasterCard and EuroCard can be used for payment in most shops and restaurants.
Thanks to EU rules, withdrawing euro from a cash machine costs you the same anywhere in the EU as it does in your own country from a cash machine that does not belong to your bank. The transaction fee for making a debit or credit card payment in the EU in euro is the same as in your own country. Charges may of course differ between banks.
Poste Restante: In Helsinki at the main Post Office, Mannerheimintie 11 F, 00100 Helsinki, open from Monday to Friday 09.00 - 18.00, in other towns at the main post office.Yellow mail boxes (on walls) for daily collections. Stamps are available at post offices, book and paper shops, R-kiosks, stations, hotels.
Postal Rates since June 1, 2011 (1st class/priority)
In Finland letter (under 50g) and postcard 0.75 euro.All countries letter (under 20g) and postcard 0.75 euro.Letter under 100g in Europe 1.50 euro, other countries 3.50 euros.
Restaurants have no general requirements as to dress, although some up-market establishments may prefer men to wear jacket and tie.
Restaurant closing hours vary from 22.00 to 03.00. Night clubs are open until three or four in the morning. A few dance restaurants and discotheques may charge an admission fee of between 1.5 to 5 euros, and night clubs up to 10 euros.
Service charges are included in hotel room rates and also in restaurant prices, but although it is not expected, there's nothing to stop customers giving an extra tip if they think service warrants it.
Value added tax is added to invoices and normally included in the displayed total price for goods and products in Finnish shops and restaurants. The standard rate for VAT, the initials for which are ALV in Finnish, is 22 per cent, with a rate of 17 per cent for food and animal feed and 8 per cent for transport.
Pets are not generally welcomed in Finnish restaurants.
In Finland a person aged 20 can buy alcoholic drinks of any kind from an Alko store. People over 18 years of age and over can buy mild alcoholic drinks containing at most 22 per cent alcohol by volume, such as wines and beers. The sale of wine and spirits to the under-18s is prohibited by law. Customers may be asked to show a passport, identification card or driving licence as proof of age.
The retail sale of alcoholic beverages in Finland is a monopoly run along the same lines as in the other Nordic countries (with the exception of Denmark). Retail sales of alcohol take place through the Alko stores. Medium beer is also sold in supermarkets and other stores. Alko stores are open from Monday to Friday 09.00 - 18.00 (20.00), Saturdays 09.00 - 16.00 (18.00).
In Finland any person who has reached the age of 18 may buy alcoholic beverages in a restaurant. Restaurants serve beer from 09.00 and other alcoholic beverages from 11.00. Service of alcohol ends half an hour before restaurant closing.
If you are planning a winter visit, it's good idea to be prepared for some chilly weather. Finnish buildings are so well heated you'll want to shed some of those layers when you get inside, no matter how cold it is outside. Warm, waterproof boots are an advantage in the slushy southern autumns, while fur or other thick linings are a good idea whenever the temperatures fall below minus ten Celsius.
Thick, padded jackets are likewise fairly indispensable wherever you happen to be in the winter, and truly essential in Lapland winters. If you are planning to try some winter sports, you will be able to purchase the right specialist clothing and footwear when you arrive in Finland. Staying dry is a priority in the sometimes stormy autumns, when Goretex and other waterproof materials come into their own. In the summer, casual wear is pretty much the same as in other parts of northern and central Europe – light trousers, shorts, tee-shirts - but evenings can be cool, so it's a good idea to have a sweater and/or jacket at hand.
One of the great concepts in Finland is called "Everyman's Rights". Every woman's too. This gives you permission to roam freely, pick berries and mushrooms, and enjoy the peace and quiet of the forests, lakes and rivers. Thanks to "Everyman's Rights" you have far greater freedom to roam in Finland than in most other countries.
Everyman's Rights is a concept that evolved over the centuries, an unwritten code created by a sparse population living in a vast, densely forested country. Just a few things to keep in mind. You can pick wild berries - but you can't pick someone's apples or plums. You can go canoeing and camping, but not too close to someone's house. Don't leave litter, and leave the place the way you found it.
Finland is officially bilingual: Finnish is the first language of 92% and Swedish of 5.5% of the population. About 1,700 people in Lapland speak Sami (Lapp) languages.
Swedish-speaking Finns, of whom there are about 300,000, are mainly along the coast of the south and the south-west archipelago and along the shore of the Gulf of Bothnia to the west. Swedish is the official language on the Åland Islands.
Finnish is the mother tongue of only about five million people in the world, so being able to speak foreign languages is essential for Finns. This is an advantage for foreign visitors, because many Finns speak English, German or some other European language.
Finnish has a reputation for being a difficult language, with many declensions and long words. You don't have to learn how to pronounce these words, but to help you get started, here's the word for hello: "Hei". If you want to be cool, you can say "Moi." After a delicious dinner, it's always polite to say "kiitos", pronounced "keetos".